Early in March, when snow still covered much of the United States, the movie Frozen won an oscar for best animated movie.
Somewhat based on Hans Christian Andersen's story, The Snow Queen, this delightful tale captured my attention from the beginning and held my attention to the "Easter egg" which followed the credits. You did stay to watch it, right?
Those of us who have experienced the joy (or trials) of this snowy winter found a haven in this delightful story. And not only a haven, but fantastic, creative party ideas. Hah! I've seen those Frozen kid sleepover pics on FB with ice cream and other icy treats. What fun times.
Did you know, in Tucson, Arizona, and probably similar typically toasty settings, the story didn't communicate the same meaning to young audiences.
My adult daughter went with a friend and her child to a theater in Tucson, where a room full of children and their guardians packed the seats. The opening scenes, which told a fun story of sister play, delighted the children. However, when the snow fell and the ice coated the landscape, the young audience wrestled with questions. The interesting and amusing blurts of child misunderstandings peppered the storyline.
The main issue: how can something as light as cotton candy be hard enough to walk on? Great question. On the few occasions snow sprinkles in Arizona, it melts almost as quick as it falls. Who could possible walk on it, or sink to their knees in it?
When my daughter told me what the children said and described their perplexed faces, I realized this audience did not share the same experience as those who've lived through frozen winters. Especially this year.
Though entertained, the young summer state audience may have been so consumed with the strange white substance that their take home thoughts of the story were different. Nothing wrong with that, of course.
Ah hah, I thought. The perfect concept to address on the Alley. (Please keep in mind the movie Frozen ranks tops in my mind and this following simply is a springboard from the kids response).
All genres from science fiction to historical, fantasy to contemporary, romance to thriller/suspense need to grab their audience on page one and clutch with the claws of an eagle to the last page.
Unlike the children who became fascinated with a new perspective of snow and ice, adult readers will endure only a few perplexing questions as they turn the first pages in a story. Oddities in an adult story jeopardizes believability. If not satisfied in a page or two, the book will be closed and left to collect dust.
How can we best insure communication with our audience?
1. 3-D storytelling. Whether the story takes place in a fantasy world, in days long ago, has characters who are more than eccentric or personified, each page must contain vivid storytelling. This is best done by incorporating sensory clues so realistic the reader can't help but live the moment with the character even if one is propelled in a rocket soaring to the sun.
2. Dialogue. Spoken words need to reveal more than conversation. Questions of the heart and mind, when said out loud, insight rebuttals, emotions, and other questions. Don't be afraid to put a thought inside the quotes and open the door for other characters to verbally respond with their emotion.
3. Pacing. There are moments when readers need a chance to process and other moments when pages need to fly. If our books were musicals, a song would be inserted. For example, in the movie Frozen, Anna (the younger sister) was lonely. She met a handsome prince at the coronation. To speed up their attraction and marriage proposal, the song, Love is an Open Door was inserted (A hilarious song). The words and actions clarified and even justified Anna's reasons for saying yes so quickly. For books, an anecdote could be inserted. What else could be done to give readers time to process or fast forward?
4. Reasonable components of reality must be integrated. Winnie the Pooh, though a toy, was hungry and thirsty. True to history, Confederate soldiers died and plantations burned in Gone With the Wind. Harry Potter was bullied. Dracula could die. The snowman in Frozen saw the world upside down when his head wasn't on right. Each of these examples serve as a key to open the door and welcome the reader/viewer into a believable story world.
Here is a brainteaser. If you were the screenwriter for Frozen, what would you have added to the script to help children living in strictly summer climates to identify with the story?
Mary has moved to Michigan with her husband, closer to her three college kids. She misses the mountains of Montana, but loves seeing family more often. She writes contemporary and romance Christian fiction, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.